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Wordsworth artist takes up post

Helen sketching in the garden at Rydal Mount

An artist has taken up “residence” at Rydal Mount near Ambleside to help celebrate the life and work of the poet William Wordsworth.

Helen Johnson, from Alston, will work at the house and gardens on a regular basis over the next 12 months, marking the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth.

A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen will produce pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth. They are spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.

Helen’s pictures of red squirrels

Helen taught at schools in Canterbury and the north-east before settling in Alston. She has a masters’ degree in art, and was originally an oil painter who now uses a range of materials – including non-recyclable plastic which is melted onto a canvas.

Admitting that Wordsworth’s poetry is a new-found interest, Helen says that she shares his interests in and concerns for the environment and sustainability. She is investigating various sustainable methods of creating works of art including making her own pigments.

Her most recent work shows the trees on the banks of the South Tyne and aims to comment on the crisis we face regarding climate change and the detrimental effects of our consumerism.

Helen said: “This is a wonderful opportunity and the most beautiful place to work.”

The curator of Rydal Mount, Emily Heath, said that she had been attracted initially by Helen’s pictures of red squirrels, which feature on greeting cards sold at the house. “We think that Helen’s work is fascinating, and we are thrilled that she will be working here with us for a year.”